USC, Pepperdine Garner Berths in NIT : Pairings: The Trojans play at Nevada Las Vegas, and Waves travel to UC Santa Barbara.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

USC and Pepperdine, as expected, were invited to the 32-team National Invitation Tournament Sunday. However, they will not play each other in the first round.

USC, 16-11 overall--but 5-9 on the road--will play at Nevada Las Vegas (21-7). Pepperdine (22-7) will play at UC Santa Barbara (18-10).

The Trojans will be playing UNLV (21-7) for the first time Wednesday night at 9.

Santa Barbara (18-10), which beat Pepperdine, 60-55, early in the season at Malibu, will play host to the Waves Friday night at a time to be decided.

USC Coach George Raveling said he and his players were looking forward to opening against UNLV, the most highly regarded team in the tournament.

The Trojans' only other appearance in the NIT was a loss to Notre Dame in 1972. But Raveling has a history of success in the event that will conclude in Madison Square Garden.

As a player in 1960, Raveling made two free throws in the closing seconds to give Villanova the championship over Detroit, which featured future NBA star Dave DeBusschere. In 1972, Raveling was an assistant when Maryland, led by Len Elmore and Tom McMillen won the event.

Raveling said the Trojans will not be affected by their 101-67 loss to Arizona State Saturday night.

"Playing a team as good as UNLV will be motivation enough," Raveling said. "We should be ready to play our best game.

"This may be the most competitive NIT ever. There were a lot of good teams left out of the NCAA. The NIT should be a great tournament."

Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury, whose team won the West Coast Conference but lost to Santa Clara in the conference tournament, admitted he was disappointed in not making the NCAA.

"I'd rather be playing than not playing," he said. "Obviously, I would rather be in the NCAA. But we are not the type that looks down on the NIT.

"We are fortunate to be playing close to home. Our kids have missed a lot of school."

Santa Barbara finished sixth in the Big West.

UNLV, in its first season under Coach Rollie Massimino, is led by 6-foot-5 forward J.R. Rider, who is averaging 29.1 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

UNLV had played in the NCAA tournament every year it was eligible until this last season. Last year, the Rebels were suspended.

Like Raveling, Massimino, a former Villanova coach, uses the three-guard system. UNLV features the 6-5 Rider and 6-7 Evric Gray. The Trojans start two 6-7 players, Lorenzo Orr and Mark Boyd.

But, while the Trojans have averaged only 68.2 points per game, the Runnin' Rebels live up to their nickname and average nearly 90.

Arizona State (18-9) was the only other Pacific 10 Conference team invited to the NIT. The Sun Devils will play host to Georgetown (16-12) at Tempe, Ariz., Thursday night.

Georgetown accepted a berth after 14 consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.

"I am not in a position to turn down anything," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said Friday night after the Hoyas lost any shot at the NCAA by losing to eventual champion Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament. "My job is to get as much experience for this team as I can.

"The only way for them to grow up is to play basketball. They have to mature a lot."

In other first-round games, Michigan State (15-12) plays at Oklahoma (19-11), and Miami (Ohio) (20-8) plays at Ohio State (15-12) Wednesday night.

In other games Wednesday, it Florida (16-11) is at Minnesota (17-10), Rice (17-9) is at Wisconsin (14-13), and Georgia (15-13) is at West Virginia (16-11).

Thursday's games include St. Joseph's (18-10) at Southwest Missouri State (17-10); Alabama-Birmingham (17-13) at Alabama (16-12); James Madison (21-8) at Providence (17-11); Auburn (15-11) at Clemson (16-12), and Boston College (16-12) at Niagara (23-6).

The first round concludes Friday with Jackson State (24-8) at Connecticut (15-12), Virginia Commonwealth (20-9) at Old Dominion (20-7), and Houston (21-8) at Texas El Paso (20-12).

Times staff writer Mitch Polin and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
70°